Topeka Gov. Sam Brownback says the 2011 legislative session has been about “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
“That has been our primary focus,” Brownback said at a news conference last week as the Legislature resumed the session.
But Democrats say Brownback, a Republican, and the Republican-dominated Legislature have been more about killing jobs and pleasing the GOP base on social issues.
And the Democrats point out there is still no resolution of the state budget, and there appears to be an impasse on patching up the state pension fund.
“With his first session as governor coming to a close, Sam Brownback and the Republican-led Legislature have done nothing to create jobs and grow the economy,” said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka. “Instead, Sam Brownback is using his position as governor to push intrusive social issues that have wasted the Legislature’s time and the taxpayers’ money.”
Taking office as governor in January, Brownback, a former U.S. senator, has signed into law new restrictions on abortion and requirements to have a photo ID and proof of citizenship to register to vote.
Brownback has held major news conferences and signing ceremonies to tout those measures.
But at his news conference last week, Brownback focused on economic initiatives, including his proposal to waive state income taxes for people moving from out of state to counties with declining populations and changes to the workers’ compensation law that won unanimous approval.
He is off and running on a series of economic summits and said he wants the state to go on the offensive in bringing more airplane manufacturing jobs to Kansas.
As far as the Legislature goes, Brownback said legislators must approve a budget for the next fiscal year and reach agreement on dealing with the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, which is facing funding problems in future years. The session is expected to last into mid-May.
Brownback has given the Legislature good marks, saying it has tackled a broad range of issues with less acrimony than in other states.
Of Democrats’ complaints that he is focused on social issues, Brownback said, “I think that is the Democrat focus — is on those other issues. They would like the public to believe that that is what the Legislature is focused on.”
House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence called that “Washington-style spin.”
Davis blames Brownback for attempts in the House last week to force the attorney general to file a lawsuit against a proposed $250 million resort and casino in south-central Kansas, which promises to provide thousands of jobs. The effort failed last week in the House.
And Democrats have derided House Republicans for advancing again to the Senate new regulations on sexually oriented businesses.
“We have a limited number of days left this session; how many more are we going to spend on bills that kill jobs and strip clubs before we reach an agreement on the budget?” asked assistant House Democratic Leader Rep. Tom Burroughs of Kansas City.
Senate leaders have indicated they don’t want to deal with the sexually oriented business issue, but conservative Republicans, such as state Rep. Owen Donohoe, R-Shawnee, said that position will be used against senators when they run for re-election.